Oleksandr Usyk faced a late scramble to find an opponent and Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse expects him to take his frustrations out on Chazz Witherspoon...
"To have any chance of testing himself against the main players in the top division, Usyk must first prove himself at heavyweight."
Usyk mixing it with the big boys
Oleksandr Usyk makes his debut in the heavyweight division at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. The Ukrainian pound-for-pound great meets Philadelphia based puncher Chazz Witherspoon in a bout that will prove if the 32-year-old is capable of competing at the highest weight category.
Usyk hasn't fought since stopping Tony Bellew in eight rounds with an alphabet of cruiserweight titles on the line. The supremely talented southpaw won a host of new UK fans following that impressive win over Bomber at the Manchester Arena last November, a result that ushered Bellew into retirement with a 30-3-1 record. Armchair fans can follow the action live on Sky Sports and you can spice up your viewing with a punt on Betfair.
In at the deep end
Oleksandr is the fighter's fighter. The 32-year-old was devastating at cruiserweight, winning each of his 16 bouts to date. No less than a dozen of those wins came inside the distance, resulting in a 75% KO average. It was that power that first led to suggestions the Kiev-based fighter could hold his own against the likes of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr.
To have any chance of testing himself against the main players in the top division, Usyk must first prove himself at heavyweight. Many believed he would ease himself in with a fight against a low-ranking opponent with a few defeats on his record, but that isn't the case. Oleksandr is an ambitious warrior who is completely convinced by his own talents. He's also a man in a hurry to make an impression in the division, so takes on the established Chazz Witherspoon.
It's nothing less than we expected from Usyk but, despite the challenge, it's a test he's expected to win. The current betting for this fight has Oleksandr priced up as red hot favourite with a strawweight 1/100 available on the Betfair Sportsbook. That's not a price casual backers can work with, but there's more available if taking a pop at the method of victory. Usyk by KO/TKO is 1/16 with a rare points cheer 8/1.
Late scramble for an opponent
Carlos Takam was originally scheduled to provide Usyk with his first heavyweight opponent, but he was forced to pull out. Willing replacements weren't easy for promoters to come by at that stage so full credit must go to Tyrone Spong who filled the gap. Not only was the 34-year-old bold enough to face the supreme boxing skills of Usyk, he was also happy to put his fearsome unbeaten record on the line. That fight also fell flat, however, Spong failing a VADA test.
Usyk and his handlers were then thrust into a last-minute scramble to find an opponent with a decent enough record, one that was fit and willing to take on the challenge at such late notice. Chazz Witherspoon was the man who answered the call and organisers were happy he did, not to mention those who had bought a ticket.
What can we expect from Chazz Witherspoon? Well, he's not a top 10 contender in anyone's book but he is an established heavyweight who will provide his opponent with an introduction to the division. He'll do so without causing too many problems, however. Witherspoon is as big as 20/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook to cause an upset that would outrank Ruiz's win over Joshua.